I should really have got Dr Rob to write the introduction to this compilation as he took care of the tracklisting but I forgot to ask so here I go. If I had to pick my favourite record label there would be no doubt it would be Island Records. The breadth of the music, the Compass Point years, the logo and the sleeves – all made with the utmost care.
When Chris Blackwell was at the helm of Island Records the music always seemed to come first. Not only did he own and run the label and have the common sense to sign the right artists (or employ people with great ears such as Muff Winwood and Joe Boyd to do it for him), he also often produced the albums – rounding up groups of complimentary musicians, producers and engineers, and leaving them to get on with the job. He knew exactly where to take Grace Jones when she was a down and out disco queen, and not only trusted Bob Marley with a wedge of money to go and record an album (unheard of in Jamaica at that time) but also knew exactly what was required to take him from the streets of Kingston to the rest of the world. He also gave the world U2 but we’ll forgive him that one for now.
If you feel like exploring further and want to start with one Island album then my current suggestion (especially with winter arriving fast) would be the deluxe edition of John Martyn’s ‘One World’, worth buying for the instrumental of ‘Small Hours’ (as well as the two tracks featured here). That track just about sums the label up. According to the sleeve notes they were high, it was recorded across a lake at 3 a.m (listen carefully and you can hear the animals) and Steve Winwood was in support on the Moog. Class.
Thanks to Tim H for the Winwood, Martyn’s ‘Blackman At Your Shoulder’ and the B52s.